Ferdinand Mahfood, the founder and president of Food for the Poor, based southeast Florida, has resigned amid reports of sexual and financial impropriety.

Saying that he suffers from a bipolar disorder (a psychological ailment), Mahfood turned over control of the 18-year-old organization to his brother, Robin. Mahfood had been placed on a six-month administrative leave of absence six weeks earlier.

His resignation follows a lawsuit by Rodney Taylor, the organization's former director of development who charged that Mahfood diverted charity funds to female employees with whom Mahfood had intimate relations. Taylor reportedly told federal investigators that the organization had covered up Mahfood's actions. FBI officials refused to confirm or deny that an investigation was under way.

In a statement, Mahfood, a Jamaican native and renowned Catholic business leader, told the agency's 200 employees, "I have been in love with the human race for the last 18 years. You should focus on that ... and not on my friendship with any particular women that I am alleged to have had a friendship with. Unfortunately, I have not recently successfully managed my illness, and some of my behaviors have been unacceptable. For these behaviors, I apologize and ask your forgiveness."

Mahfood is reported to be receiving inpatient care at a medical facility in Connecticut. Taylor told the Broward County Sheriff's office that Mahfood was involved with two female employees and paid them through a fund that the nonprofit organizaton had set up in Jamaica. Food for the Poor officials said that Taylor has been terminated because of poor job performance.

Charges of impropriety were first leveled in April, 1999, when one of the two female employees filed a sexual ...

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